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Unai Simón: “Until Luis Enrique, no one explained to me how the goalkeeper’s release of the ball worked” | Euro Cup Germany 2024

Unai Simón: “Until Luis Enrique, no one explained to me how the goalkeeper’s release of the ball worked” | Euro Cup Germany 2024
Unai Simón: “Until Luis Enrique, no one explained to me how the goalkeeper’s release of the ball worked” | Euro Cup Germany 2024

When Unai Simón makes a mistake, he manages to put it behind him immediately. He suffers more after the game, as he said in an interview in EL PAÍS: “You get home and you die… You get home and you see the play again…”. Also the pass that Majer intercepted on Saturday at the Berlin Olympic against Croatia, and which ended in a penalty from Rodri: “Once seen, that ball should have been played first to Robin [Le Normand]”, he said this Monday at the Spanish team’s work headquarters in Donaueschingen. In his appearance he wanted to distance himself from Mbappé’s political statement on Sunday when he asked to vote “against the extremes, those who divide.” The national team goalkeeper sees his role differently: “We often have the tendency to give too much opinion on certain topics, when I don’t know if we should give an opinion or not. “I am a soccer player here, I am dedicated to playing soccer and I think the only thing I should talk about right now is sports issues.”

Unai Simón also revealed that he will undergo surgery to have a wrist operation (he did not want to say which one) after the tournament: “It is something that I have not wanted to give importance to until the Euro Cup is over, but it is something that does not prevent me from playing, as has been demonstrated throughout the season. Nor is it something that worries me right now.”

He also downplayed the loss of the ball against Croatia, which he understands as a consequence of the risks that the goalkeeper must take to better contribute to the team’s general plan: “You have to know how to reduce risks, know how to be practical, but you also have to look for the team. We are a team that likes to have the ball, come from behind,” he explained.

This is not such an obvious aspect of the game for goalkeepers. He began to understand it four years ago in his first call-up with the senior team: “Until I met Luis Enrique, no one explained to me how the goalkeeper’s release of the ball worked. Luis Enrique was a very important figure for this. He was step by step with me, understanding how to find free men with high pressure, with pressure from sides, with interiors… He was a very important person in that sense, to whom I am very grateful, because today all football What I can do from behind, or what the team can rely on me for, is thanks to him. And to other coaches, logically.”

Against Croatia, Unai Simón gave 35 passes, according to the records of StatsBomb. 22 were long, with a 45% success rate, and 13 were short, of which only the one Majer stole failed. “Football is this type of action, where half a millimeter to the right or half a millimeter to the left ends the play in a penalty or not,” he said. “The only thing I would have regretted is that they had expelled Rodri [el jugador que derribó a Petkovic cuando trabaja de evitar el gol tras la pérdida]”.

The same Croatian footballer who fell in the area was the one who grabbed the ball to shoot. Simón had already stopped a shot in the tiebreaker of the Nations final in June of last year. The Athletic goalkeeper always has a side planned for each pitcher before the games. “It so happened that Petkovic shot again. It was clear to me that he was going to go to my right. And if he changes it, to the pot. But if he throws it next to me, the idea is that he doesn’t put it in. Or that he adjusts it very well, like the penalty that Parejo took at me in the League with Villarreal, who nailed it into the top corner, the dog…”, he joked. “It’s about that: when they take the penalty on your side, stop it. And that’s it, it doesn’t have much more mystery.”

Despite the shock of the ruling, Unai Simón did not leave the Berlin Olympics distraught: “I left happy because we won 3-0,” he said. “I think overall it was a good individual match.” In play, he made five quite complex saves, according to the metric of StatsBomb which measures the difficulty of shots: he made five saves worth 1.87 expected goals after the shot, an average of 0.37 per shot. Furthermore, although he had a good intuition of what Petkovic was going to do with the penalty, the Croatian took a difficult shot, which was worth 0.88 expected goals, above an average penalty, which is awarded 0.78. “The penalty play marks you, but I treat it as one more, like the save against Kovacic. Like any other”.

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